Labour’s Failure to Offer a Credible Platform

For many people, the approaching election brings a fear that the Conservatives will get in again, and they will be worse off as a result. Labour should have offered a credible policy platform if it wanted to win the election. But perhaps more important, it should have offered a credible platform because it owes the electorate a duty of care. It is any decent political party’s responsibility to do its best for all of the electorate, indeed all of the general population. But there should be a special emphasis on those most in need, while the most wealthy would be expected to contribute the most.

Policies would also be expected to create a better society as well as a stronger, more egalitarian economy. Cameron had warned that the global economy faced difficult times, but ignored the fact that most of the countries having difficulties had either been imposing austerity, like Britain and Greece, or faced declining export sales to such countries, as Germany and China did, and so suffered falling growth.

The fact is that George Osborne has left the British economy in a worse state than when he took office. GDP growth has been much weaker than the Office for Budget Responsibility predicted in 2010, and national debt is much higher as a proportion of GDP than was forecast. (Ben Chu. The Independent. December 2 2014.) Living standards have fallen, as have real wages. Large sections of the population are significantly poorer, from the unemployed having their benefits withdrawn without good reason to students facing tuition fee hikes, to children who lost the right to free school meals.

Osborne may talk of prosperity, growth or the economy healing, but that has no grounding in fact. At best, his words are misleading. At worst, it presents a completely false picture of reality. On every indicator, the outcome for the British economy has turned out worse than was predicted. Borrowing has been considerably higher than was predicted, so the national debt as a share of GDP is much higher than predicted in 2010. Wages have been static, and for many, have actually fallen in real terms. But the key part of his plan was the intended reduction of the government deficit, and that has not fallen, but is in fact rising.

The sad feature of this is that it was obvious right from the beginning that cutting spending just as the British economy coming out of a recession was the worst possible move. The economy needed support, it needed more of the stimulus that Barack Obama and Gordon Brown agreed in 2008. Ed Miliband and Ed Balls began the era of austerity sadism by rejecting Osborne’s prescription, but gradually moved to accepting it, and Osborne’s stance.

It cannot be denied that the Conservatives are still more trusted on the economy than Labour, and part of this is due to the Tories’ exceptional PR and presentation skills. But there has also been the almost complete absence of any alternative view from Labour. Ed Miliband has expended little or no discernible effort on persuading the average voter that cutting spending was not the way to boost the economy, or that sacking 100,000 workers would not increase tax revenue. The arguments are simple common sense; to pay off debt, it helps to make the nation richer. And that means making all its component workers, businesses and services wealthier.

If Ed Miliband had consistently criticised the coalition’s policies ever since it became obvious that they were not working, he would now have significant credibility with the electorate. His lack of credibility has to be linked to the disparity between the coalition’s frequent and skilled presentations of its own views, and the rarity of Ed Miliband and Ed Balls’s speeches and the dull management speak of the former.

Labour owes it to Britain to do something about the appalling state of the British economy. It is time to tell Labour to get its act together if it wants to win the 2015 election.

David Simmons, the owner of Third Avenue Press, is the author of several politics-related books. One of his most recent books is, The Lie of the Land, available on Kindle, and What’s The Worst That Could Happen

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